I have always known that I wanted to stay home with my kids if that was in the cards for my family. So leaving my job in June 2012 wasn’t a surprise or even sad.
What was a surprise was how hard the transition to being a stay-at-home mom was.
I had to find my rhythm as a mom. I had to find my village. I had to remember to leave the house. I had to figure out how to make time for meaningful conversations with someone who could speak back to me.
All of these are important parts of figuring out life as a stay-at-home mom, but they aren’t the secret.
The secret is my husband.
My husband loves his job and is really good at it. He single-handedly supports our family financially.
My husband loves being a dad. He doesn’t miss a moment when he comes in the door from work and immediately gets on the floor and rolls around with the kids. He prioritizes being home for dinner every night, even if that means working from home after the kids go to bed.
My husband loves me often better than I love myself. He knows my heart and when I am feeling overwhelmed, unfulfilled, or spent.
All of these are important parts of what makes staying at home work, but they aren’t the secret either.
The secret to being a stay-at-home mom is that my husband considers the work I do just as important as the work he does at work.
He never expects the house to look perfect when he arrives home or dinner to be waiting on the table. He doesn’t consider me his errand girl to make sure I get all the things he needs or the cleaning lady in charge of the house. He doesn’t feel entitled to time to himself at the end of the day. He never, Never, NEVER asks if that is “all” I did today.
He holds my everyday work in high esteem. He thinks I am doing the most important work in the family.
And I do the same for him. I appreciate how hard he works at his career because it fills him and because it provides for our family allowing me the opportunity to stay home. I don’t waste that hard work on shopping sprees and unnecessary indulgences. I appreciate the way that he dads 110%. So I don’t interrupt when he isn’t doing things at home the exact way I would.
I try to make our home a haven for him to come home to. For the clutter to be picked up, dinner to be on the table, and the kids to be calm when he comes home…but I usually fail on at least two of those on any given night…so it’s a good thing that he never demands them.
He sees when I need conversation with adults or an opportunity to use my non-mom skills and enthusiastically takes the reins of dinner with the kids, and often times bathtime and bedtime as well, to afford me those opportunities.
The fact is: we are a team. But not only are we a team, we both consider the other to be the MVP.
He is not greater because he makes the money and I am not greater because I rear the children.
Sometimes finding this balance requires intentionality.
Some specific ways to support your stay-at-home spouse:
- Tell him/her explicitly that they are doing a good job. All traditional metrics of productivity go out the window when you stay home. Sometimes we just need to hear, “I appreciate all you do. Thank you for all you give to our family. You are doing a great job.”
- Don’t implicitly tell him/her that they are doing a bad job. You may just be asking if your favorite shirt is ready for an important meeting, but when you say, “Didn’t you get this laundry done?” when I am drowning in laundry and dishes and little people who need me, I can hear, “Why can’t you get stuff done around here?!?” and I internalize a list of all the things I have failed at.
- Know that staying home is not a lazy second choice to a career, it’s an intentional sacrifice. I didn’t decide to stay home because I hated my job and am lazy. Staying home isn’t all bon-bons and relaxing. Actually, I haven’t had a bon-bon in any of the 6 years I have been home. I don’t stay home because I am lazy or not driven. I gave up a career I loved for our family.
Some things to remember if you stay at home:
- If you need encouragement, ask. Directly. Spouses can’t read your mind. It might seem obvious to you that you need support peering over your cup of cold coffee on your fourth day of dry shampoo, but spouses can’t read your mind. He might not know if its the lack of sleep, the change in hormones, the change in routine, or all of the above. Tell him, “I’m feeling _____.” Say, “I need _____.”
- Give your spouse grace to ask about laundry (see #2 above). Your spouse is allowed to ask about the state of the laundry without implying an unspoken dissertation on all the things you didn’t get done today. And sometimes household logistics genuinely need adjusting…there is no reason that both of you can’t be part of that solution.
- Don’t treat your spouse like the fill-in childcare. I get it. You have the house functioning as a well-oiled machine from 9-5 M-F. You have worked tirelessly to get everyone’s routine humming and suddenly someone else is home and does things differently and the wheels fall off. There is a time to have that conversation (hint: it’s not in the middle of whatever is happening).
There is also some magic in the fact that things don’t have to be done *exactly* the same way on the weekends. My husband is way more fun than I am and it fills our home with laughter on the weekends. I am way more structured and everyone gets where they need to be during the week. It’s about balance.
At the end of the day, it comes down to appreciation on both sides.
Genuinely appreciating how your spouse contributes to the family. Some days the contributions are split 50/50. Sometimes it’s 90/10. And sometimes it’s 100/100. Give your spouse enough grace to believe they are giving their best to your family and take time to express your appreciation.
Words are not adequate for my appreciation of this man. He has given me all my dreams and continues to give me the dream of staying home.